Farzin Entesarian

Michael Debenham

Ashok Puri

Ravindran Appukuttan

Khaled Abu Osbeh

John Thomas

The Fourth International Conference on Quality Management

The Fourth International Conference on Quality Management

Quality Management and Sustainable Competitiveness in the Global Environment

On 19th-21st December (inclusive) a major event was held in Tehran, a biennial event, "The International Conference on Quality Management". This year the Fourth Conference was held with the participation of internationally known scholars who gave speeches and conducted workshops for about 1,500 people who participated in the Conference to listen to these papers and take part in the workshops. These ran in six theatres, such that at any time during the Conference hours, six sessions were running in parallel. The Conference was inaugurated on the 19th when the Vice-President Dr (Ms) Ebtekar, Dr Towfigh, the Head of the Institute of Standardization and Industrial Research, and Mr Entessarian, the Conference Secretary delivered speeches.

During the three days of the Conference and the days that followed, Events managed to have informal conversations with a number of speakers who had come to participate in the Conference from diverse countries, as far away as Canada on the west and Malaysia on the east.

Farzin Entesarian, the Conference Secretary, is a well known Iranian scholar on QMS and the Managing Director of Iran Group of Surveyors

Events- Mr Entessarian, as the Secretary of the Conference what is your own appraisal of how it was held and of its success?

Farzin Entesarian- Considering the size of the Conference and the number of speeches delivered and workshops conducted, which I think total 61 sessions in all, with over 100 papers, I think that on the whole the Fourth Conference was quite successful, partly because we managed to successfully combine the traditional form of such a conference with plays and films. This is something new, I think. Secondly, we managed to hold all the sessions that had been planned and even in one case where a speaker from abroad could not manage to come to Iran in time, we replaced the speech with another, delivered very successfully by someone else.

Thirdly, the Conference was well received by the media. For example, there were about 100 articles of all sizes printed in the various newspapers. Of course, there were some shortcomings as it is expected in an event of this size. But we learn from every conference we hold, and hopefully improve the next.

But, the main achievement of the Conference was the Resolution issued at the end of it. As you probably know presently Iran is going through a very delicate stage. The President will soon hand over the office to someone else; the new parliament has only recently come together; our negotiations with Europe are about to end with a satisfactory result... For all these reasons the Conference issued a Resolution that will make a great change for the better in the whole administrative system, once it is properly implemented. The Resolution has been well received and already it can be read on about 100 different websites.

E- One of the speakers has said that even in Europe they cannot gather more than 800 persons in a similar conference. In that case, having 1500 participants is quite impressive.
FE- Indeed! Furthermore to attract speakers from abroad is not an easy task, in this country. It is quite a different matter for a speaker to go to a country like the UK than to come to Iran. It's simply a lot more complicated. But we managed to gather a considerable number of people from abroad to deliver speeches and conduct workshops. I think the Conference was quite successful in that respect particularly.

During the conference Events was fortunate to find an opportunity of interviewing three of the most reputable scholars on QM at the same time, Juhani Anttila, Bob Alisic and Paul Maillet. Juhani Anttila is Member of International Academy for Quality, Bob Alisic is Convener of Committee for Revision of ISO 9004 Standards in ISO/TC 178 and Paul Maillet is President of Paul Maillet Ethnics Center in Canada.

Events- What are your appraisals of the Conference and in what areas do you think it can improve?

Juhani Anttila- Well to begin with one has to consider that it's a huge conference, with a large number of participants and most important of all there is no student here. Everybody is experienced and comes from a large organization such as one of the government bodies. When I have discussions with them I note that they pose clever questions from real life.

Bob Alisic- I fully agree with Mr Anttila but I must add that combining films with papers and workshops is a strong aspect of this Conference. One can convey stronger messages through films because we are all influenced far better visually than otherwise.

Paul Maillet- I think on the whole the conference has done a superb job of gathering over 1200 people in a multicultural environment. Where it could improve, in my opinion, is in the length of the time allowed for workshops. It takes three to four hours to get a professional workshop going and in order to get most out of it you may need up to a day. To be asked to condense a workshop to an hour or an hour and a half may cause the loss of some important points that one may have. So, my only comment on improvement, would be allowing workshops more time.

JA- I too agree that to conduct a proper workshop one needs half-a-day in most cases but not more than that.

BA- Three to four hours should be enough and the group attending the workshop should be 30 people at the most and not more, to allow an interactive workshop.

PM- In Canada nowadays we do not arrange the workshop theatre like a conference theatre but rather a room with four or five, preferably four, tables with four persons sitting at each table so that they can interact, and discuss the problems. The facilitator would just go around and ask the people to give him/her a flavour of what they have been discussing.

BA- You must choose the audience for each lecture or workshop selectively. The members of the audience should fill in forms before hand to give their preferences. In this way you can allocate rooms of the various sizes to the workshops.

JA - Perhaps I should point out that for non-Iranians the program in English should be made available earlier. Another problem this year is that on the first morning of the Conference there was no translation whereas there were important things said that we should have heard and understand.

PM- The Vice President had some important things to say that we only learned about, the next day in the papers.

E- We have many speeches and workshops conducted by Iranians which cover issues of management observed in Iran and give suggestions about improvements in our management systems. It would be very helpful to have suggestions from the people of the West as well.

PM- We have three options here: either we as Westerners should become sufficiently familiar with the country, the nation, its management situation and its industries or we should bring our experiences to Iran and let Iran take advantage of them. The third option would be to have focus groups with Iranians and Western people working side by side in each session. It would not be so much a session of teaching but of questions and answers.

BA- In the session yesterday afternoon, I had the first presentation on How to Build a Road Map to Excellence and after my presentation there came four presentations given by Iranians, which fitted together very well and matched mine as well; but they could be a lot stronger if I had been informed in advance. In this way we could present a very consolidated set of presentations.

Organizational Flexibility

Events asked Juhani Anttila, Bob Alisic, and Paul Maillet what, in their opinion, flexibility in organizations meant.

Juhani Anttila- My definition of flexibility is rapid responsiveness to changes in the external world.

Events- Would you allow a manager to change his mind from one moment to another? Is he allowed to break a promise?

PM- It is not necessarily a question of breaking a promise. If I have made a promise to you that I later find very difficult to keep, I would go to you and seek some sort of compromise in which we could both be able to do our jobs as managers without causing harm to the organizations we work for.

JA - I think the term flexibility is quite difficult. In my first language, Finnish, the equivalent term can make a lot of problems because it has so many meanings, and because it can be misunderstood.

BA- I would compare flexibility in an organization to steering a sailing ship where we must be flexible especially if we are sailing through a large number of islands or in rough sea conditions.
PM- In Canada one of the issues in training mangers is that we have to explain to them that management goes beyond managing processes and reaches the stage of managing people. They must make the place of work pleasant and create an atmosphere of trust.

JA - If you have flexibility it means that you also have senses; that you are really observing what is going on around you.

BA- In the film we saw here yesterday morning, in Bam after the earthquake, a team of doctors were just moving from one injured person to another as they found them, to look after them. Here you have an extreme sense of flexibility.

E- But doesn't an extreme sense of flexibility lead to chaos? In fact there was quite a lot of chaos in Bam and we lost many people because of it.

JA - I don't think extreme flexibility means confusion and chaos. I have seen plans made very carefully that have resulted in greater chaos. Flexibility means living in the real world, like a human being, naturally. Planning is unnatural indeed, and quite confusing.

BA- Perhaps we should replace the term flexibility with the terms: adaptability, speed, responsiveness, trust, and innovation.

PM- To me when you talk about chaos you have to realize that in some situations chaos is quite a valid method. There are some points in operations that can be planned, but sometimes operations are conducted in very chaotic environments. Remember the military axiom that says: the plan lasts until you cross the line. The doctor moving through all the injured knows his work, he understands medicine and so on, but chaos is in front of him. He is able to use his various processes to work. You have to empower such people in such a way that they understand the situation. Don't be afraid of chaos.

E- But don't you think that to get to that stage you need certain preparations.

BA- Of course you need certain maturity to be able to act with flexibility. Unfortunately managers are afraid of allowing more flexibility in case they lose control.

E- Wouldn't that mean that you have to have very capable managers?

JA - A good example of flexibility is nature. Look at the animals and insects; they act with flexibility because there is not much thinking among them.

E- But we all do agree that to have flexibility in an organization there must first be an adequate level of maturity.

PM- Maturity and capacity and competence.

E- You have to get people prepared.

PM- They have to be competent. Because trust is a two-way street, if you want to trust me you have to make sure that I am capable and possess all the training and skills that I need for you to trust me, to go out and do the job on my own.

BA- It's mental maturity that you should seek.

Michael Debenham is the Professional Affairs Manager at Institute of Quality Assurance of UK

Events- What is your impression of the Conference?

Michael Debenham- Firstly from the number of people who are here I come to the conclusion that it is successful. For instance in the UK in a similar Conference we can gather about 800 people at the most but here you have about 1500. I think this is very impressive. The organizers have managed to gather a good number of excellent international speakers to complement speakers from Iran and so there is a very good mixture.

E- What are the areas where the Conference can be improved?

MD- I can't see any what you might call major areas but there are some administration details. The English-speaking people would have liked to have translation on the first day. Also it would have been very helpful to have the exact program in English again on the first day.

What is important is to build on the successes and identify any areas to improve. For example, there may be opportunities to improve the administration but every culture has its own approach to organizing an event like this. I hesitate to impose an Anglo-Saxon view on what is essentially an Iranian event.

Listening to the speakers at the Conference it is a pleasure to hear some of the basic and really important messages being emphasized. For example, the understanding that quality is not just about policing production but that quality is everyone's responsibility and that it is people with the appropriate skills, knowledge and energies who really make a difference to the quality of a product or service. People, of course, need to be supported by a sound organizational culture to enable them to develop their full potentials and creativity.

E- What are your advices with respect to implementing quality management systems?

MD- It is important to learn lessons from what happened in the UK. During the 1980's many organizations thought quality equaled "written procedures" or instructions for every activity, and were consequently swamped with mountains of paperwork. The procedures were developed by the Quality Department and consequently seen as being owned by the Quality Development. This resulted in a "bolted on" quality management system (QMS) that was over-prescriptive and added little value but caused considerable grief to the organization. The fundamental key to an effective quality management system is that it is "owned" by the entire management team and not by the Quality Department. The task of the Quality Manger is to help the management team to understand why quality is integral to their own success and why therefore they should "own" that part of the QMS that relates to their area of activity.

This is not, of course, an easy task but we can start by equating quality management to business improvement, finding process efficiencies and saving costs through the elimination of waste. We can then point out that an effective QMS will help the management team to achieve their goals and objectives and to manage the organization's exposure to risk. I can only add that Iranian quality mangers are in good company because this is a problem faced by quality mangers throughout the world. However, I cannot over-emphasize that "ownership" of the relevant part of QMS by the management team is undoubtedly the most important key to success.

E- So how do you now see quality or perhaps I should say quality management in the UK?

MD- Managing for quality is no longer seen as simply "conforming to requirements" or even "exceeding customer expectations".

In reality, managing for quality is all about recognizing who our customers are and what they need from us both now and in the future. It is about identifying potential customers and markets and how they might be persuaded to use our service or product. And it is about how we deliver our service or product to our customers in accordance with their expectations of quality, delivery and budget. Not forgetting, of course, that we have to make a profit today and plan to meet the expectations of tomorrow's customers. But, perhaps most importantly, managing for quality is about performance improvement. This means improving the quality, delivery schedule and price of our product or service; improving the systems and processes that deliver them and all the resources that support these processes - which includes not only the methods, the infrastructure, machinery and materials, but also human resources.

For this to be achieved our QMS needs to be "agile" so that it can respond to the changing demands of the market and our business. For agility to be achieved we need to rely less on "instructions" plus policing and more on the competencies of individuals. Of course when we rely on competencies to provide assurance of quality we must specify these competencies and measure personnel against the competencies that we specify.

Ashok Puri, is an internationally known scholar on QM, and presently responsible for Kaizen Institute's (Africa-Asia Pacific) Marketing and Consulting Activities.

Events- Mr Ashok Puri, as an Indian you should have a better understanding of Iranian culture and of social conditions in Iran. How would you describe organizational flexibility; and would you think that we are ready for it?

Ashok Puri- Coconut trees are very flexible so they can resist heavy winds but this is thanks to their roots which go as deep below as the tree grows up above the ground.
E- So you agree that we have to have a certain degree of maturity before we adopt flexibility in our organizations!

AP- Another interpretation of flexibility as defined by the Japanese is multi-skills. All Japanese workers and managers must be multi-skilled so that if in a department something goes wrong and someone cannot do his/her work, each and every member of the department can replace him/her. This is in fact known to be the secret to Toyota's success.

In my opinion if you are to have flexibility you must have a large degree of seriousness and discipline. India is facing this problem. But, we have taken the route.

E- What about being prepared before?

AP- Well, we have adopted the route but we realize that we need a lot of training and this is the area we are lacking: skills and training. The amount of time most Asians spend on training is amazingly short compared to the time spent in Japan or US. The world class benchmark is twenty-two man-days per employee per year, in India we have two.

E- How much of all that is said in conferences on QM can be applied in practice to a country like yours and ours?

AP- It depends on the individual. These conferences are like schools and colleges. There are some students who make life out of schools, and there are some who don't. Some people are serious about learning, some are not. Even if 15-20% of the people who come to such conferences are serious and follow up, that would be enough. The successful people - who are not many - are those who have made good use of every minute of their lives.

For those who are serious and think professionally, conferences and seminars are very good triggering points. They will come to know many people that they could not know otherwise. Many people ask for my card and I know always that one day there will be an email asking me for help. In fact 70% of my clients come to me because they have heard my speech somewhere. I don't go to them; they come to me. So, these conferences are certainly very helpful.

Ravindran Appukuttan,
Lead Auditor for ISO/TS 16944

From what I have seen so far I think the conference is very good, very good indeed. But there are certain things that could be improved, particularly with regard to the workshops, and allocation of time and space. We should allow more time to the issues that are important to your nation and your industry. It's not easy to arrange, but if it is done it would be very helpful.

Khaled Abu Osbeh,
Member of TC176/SC Committee in ISO

The number of participants is really very impressive. Also the way that the areas are covered and the way subjects are categorized are also praiseworthy.
But to improve the conference in future I believe you should reduce the number of papers delivered and workshops conducted, because running six halls in parallel is very difficult and hard to control. But you are doing well. I am also happy to note how the Iranian participants are eager to learn more about the subject of QM.

John Thomas,
Quality Auditor for QMS (ISO 9000: 2000)

On the whole it is well managed and organized. There is nothing that I can point out to as a serious drawback. Not really, but I found the time allocated for delivering speeches too short. Depending upon the subject, the time can vary, but 45 minutes would allow some interaction and the involvement of the participants. Of course most papers do not require serious interaction, but some definitely do.

Address of Confrence Secretariat:
Motahhari Ave., Sanaii St., 21st St., No 4
Fax: 881 30 52-3
Tel: 882 40 72-5, 830 03 28

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